The journey started from Cyprus… I was in my hometown when students from Aalto had the first meeting for the “Accidental Tourist Guide’’. The reality reconstruction project is a collaboration among three universities (Zurich University of the Arts, AALTO University in Helsinki and Hong Kong Baptist University). Through Skype I ‘travelled’ back to a familiar place in Arabia campus to meet my group members who were in Finland. We didn’t stay long in Helsinki since we were asked to virtually walk into the streets of Hong Kong through Google Street View and find interesting spots and details of the Asian town.
The succeeding online encounters and lectures for the project found me in Oslo, where I am currently spending an exchange semester. To be honest, the whole virtual communication and navigation made me feel distant from the project since I am used to meeting people and exploring places the old school way.
I did not have to wait long for the ‘real’ journey. You see, it wasn’t only the project that I was excited about – my first excursion out of Europe wasn’t a dream anymore! After our arrival in Hong Kong and the physical engagement with all the participants of the project – Hong Kong, Zurich, and Helsinki Students, I was trying to acquaint myself with my group members without the pixel and voice-cutting barriers. We finally met and I was grouped with Valeria Nekhaeva, Onon Pang, Laila Frauenfelder, Bobby Yu and Ozan Polat. We re-discussed our findings of Google Street View and decided to focus on Hong Kong’s Back Alleys.
The local members of our group showed us different areas in Hong Kong where back alleys are used as private spaces and we had a taste of the spontaneity of this action. Considering the difficulties to work in a large group -moving all together and discussing at the same time- we decided to spend a day individually and collected data regarding the back alleys. This decision was effective since we visited different alleys around Hong Kong and each one of us looked from an alternative gaze. Through our walks and by documenting the different types of back alley we noticed the frequent presence of the office chair in the area. Hence, this element -office chair- worked as an influence for our project development.
After several experimentation and observation of the general function of Back Alleys we created an Office, an extensive working place of the Connecting Space which was the meeting point for the entire Accidental Tourist Guide Project. We tried to imitate the character of the back alleys business by using materials which could be found in the streets of Hong Kong, such as plastic boxes, wood blocks, office chairs and plastic stools. We were sitting daily at this back alley as if it is a normal office. We started documenting people’s reactions, and we were trying to discuss with the pedestrians which seemed more interested or curious of our project. We ended up with an ‘Office party’ which attracted the locals (and the police).
Although, the relations with our temporary neighbors were good, during our placement I was struggling with ethical questions regarding our random ”invasion” to their daily routine. I believe, a project like this demands time, modesty and discretion. Our final exhibit at connecting space was an installation composed from the materials we had used for our office, collected all on a trolley along with the tablet and laptop used for photo and video documentation respectively.
If I had been asked to speak about my plans for this year I couldn’t even imagine saying I will be walking the streets of Hong Kong! It is indeed an Accidental Travel Masters Degree!
The outcomes of the intercultural artistic project will be shown through a Virtual Tunnel exhibition entitled “Accidental Tourist Guide – Exploring Hong Kong” opening on Wednesday 22.3. at 12.30 -13.30 Helsinki time at Node Space Gallery.
Myrtò Theocharidou is a Visual Artist and a lifetime ‘cultural explorer.’ Myrtò was born in Cyprus and she holds a Bachelor of Visual Arts and Performing Arts in Painting from the Academy of Fine Arts of Venice, Italy. Myrtò is currently a master student of Nordic Visual Studies and Art Education, at Aalto University. She is interested in art and museum education as well as in experimenting on new techniques in the fields of art and crafts.